Oklahoma has slipped three notches and now ranks 39th among the 50 states for the overall well-being of its children, according to a report released early Tuesday by a Maryland-based foundation.
“After a brief improvement in the rankings due to the recession’s impacts on the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has begun to fall again as the overall economy improves,” said Terry Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “This is a clear indication that we have not been making the kinds of smart investments in children that we should be.”
Gov. Mary Fallin’s office declined comment Monday, noting that the governor had not yet seen the report.
The report ranked Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota as the five best states for children.
It identified Mississippi as the worst state for children, followed by New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana and Arizona.
The rankings are contained in the 2014 edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual publication compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore.
The report ranks states based on 16 indicators that fall under four basic categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.
Oklahoma ranked among the bottom half of the states in each of the four primary categories.
Poverty is an underlying factor that contributed to Oklahoma’s low rankings, Smith said.
Nearly one in four Oklahoma children live in poverty
“Poverty is related to so many negative outcomes for kids and their families,” Smith said, citing poor academic performance and high teen pregnancy rates among areas where Oklahoma’s poor rankings appeared to be linked to its 24 percent childhood poverty rate.
Oklahoma had 47 teen births per 1,000 births in 2012. While that represented a 13 percent improvement from 2005, when Oklahoma had 54 teen births per 1,000 deliveries, it still left Oklahoma tied with New Mexico for the highest rate of teenagers giving birth in the nation.
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By the numbers
Following are some of the KIDS COUNT report’s Oklahoma findings: